Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Writing and publishing are not the same thing, part two

Part One

You want to be a success at the publishing side of this coin. Obviously you do, you hit send on that query/submission. So you do your due diligence and research all the things you as a writer need to do beyond the actual writing. You join various social networks and try blogging and have business cards made and bookmarks of your cover art and plan blog tours and swag giveaways and maybe if you're lucky even real world events. You are proud of the novel you've written and you're going to do the best you can to promote it and make it a success.

And it doesn't work. Then what? First, ease up that death grip on that bottle of tequila. Second, you can only watch Firefly so many times in a row before the urge to write fanfic hits, so be careful. Stop at two marathon viewings. Third, go back to work.

So the book you wrote didn't connect with readers for whatever reason. You will spend a great deal of time trying to figure out why. There's no way around that so I won't even try. The best thing you can do is keep writing, but you may find yourself at a crossroads.

The typical advice you will see is to write from the heart, write the stories you care about, write what only you can write. And that's the best advice. But if you look around the book world you're going to notice some things. You're going to see a hell of a lot of brooding vampires, virile shapeshifters, erotic romance, young adult paranormals with love triangles, and some other trends. You're going to ask yourself, do all these writers really have a vampire/werewolf love triangle as the deepest story of their heart? Or are they writing this trendy stuff because it's what brings all the readers to their yard? And is that a bad thing?

I used to think so but I've changed my mind. Think about it this way: plenty of actors will do big movies that pay really well so they can do off-beat indie stuff that barely pays their gym membership. Plenty of musicians play sorta-secret corporate gigs for ridiculous money. Painters and photographers will take work on commission. So will jewelry designers, sculptors, any number of creative artists. Why should writers be any different? You may scoff at the author that has as many as three or even five or six releases in a year, but do you ever stop to think what drives them? Are they paying their mortgage with that money? Feeding their kids? And what else might they be working on that they don't talk about publicly? Is that "book of the heart" waiting in the wings while they build a name for themselves, pay off bills so they can be more selective about what kind of contract they sign for it, while they hone their craft? If we can understand that a talented photographer took a few suburban wedding gigs to pay for a trip to some beautiful place where they could take really amazing photographs, why can't we understand when writers essentially do the same thing? Not only have they earned themselves money, they've made a customer - a reader - happy, and isn't that one of the big reasons we do what we do?

The difference between writing and publishing is the difference between art and commerce. It's perfectly okay to want both. It's perfectly okay to straddle the line between the two. I certainly wish I could write a book every six or eight weeks that's in one of the hot selling genres and have more contracts than I can keep up with. The desire may be there but I've learned over the past year that not everyone can do this. I haven’t learned how to focus on the publishing and commerce side of things to the extent that I could do it.

Tomorrow in part three of this series I'll talk about writing and art and having a passion for storytelling.


  1. I keep telling myself I'll never write YA, but maybe someday just to see if it does better than my wolves. I am totally into the shape shifting thing so the books I've published and contracted are the stories of my heart. However, I don't think they are as formulaic as some I've read. Of course that's my biased opinion! And is writing four books in a year a bad thing? :)

    1. Writing four books or more a year is awesome if that's what you can do and I tried to make that clear. There's a lot of pressure to produce a backlist quickly because we're told that's the best way to build a successful career. The thing is not everyone can write that quickly or is happy with what they produce when they do. If you're one of those people, like I am, you just have to accept that it's going to have a negative impact on your career. *I'm* the one who's doing it wrong and I think part of the point of these posts was for me to basically say, it's okay to do it wrong. :)

    2. :) You have to write the way you know best. So far I've written six books in a year and a half, but I have no idea if I can keep that up. Sometimes the idea is there. Also, it helps enormously that five out of the six novels were a part of the same series. So the characters are already there and it's a matter of continuing the story, fleshing out back stories and coming up with a new main plot. Not half as hard as starting a new novel from scratch IMO.

      I think you are awesome BTW. You bring up so many good points that I've never really considered before. I blunder my way through this publishing thing while you have a master plan. Way cool! :)

  2. So far I haven't done much in the way of series, just the two Mojo books. I plan to do one more of those. What I'm working on now, my big wip, has the most extensive world building and plotting of anything I've ever done and my ambition is for it to be the best thing I've written so far. I don't think it will get me an agent because of the genre blending and it may not get any kind of contract, but I want it to be my best work. I don't care how long it takes, as long as its GOOD.

    I wish I had a master plan but really I don't. I'm making it up as I go.

    Apparently the threaded commenting only goes so far, I couldn't reply directly to your previous comment. It's always baby steps with Blogger. ;)